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Let the games be Online!

Let the games be Online!

SAN FRANCISCO - With a 15-hour time difference between Sydney and New York, the International Olympic Committee doesn't want its broadcast partners - who shelled out US$1.3 million for exclusive TV rights - to get scooped by the Net.

Real-time coverage on the Net, such as streaming video, has been banned to ensure that viewers are ripe for television broadcasting. However, seven out of 10 people say that broadcast TV coverage, coupled with interactive Web coverage, would increase their overall consumption of the Olympics, according to Insight Express' online survey of more than 400 adult Net users.

Surprisingly, more than half of the respondents who say they intend to follow the Olympics also say that learning about event outcomes via outlets such as the Net would encourage them to watch more of the Games on TV.

But most people online - almost three-quarters - are unaware that the IOC and its broadcast partners have limited the coverage of the Sydney events.

"I cannot get on the Internet and watch clips [of the Olympics] as they happen," says Charlie Hamilin, a former Olympian, as well as president and COO of Insight Express. "NBC presumably made the decision [to bar real-time streaming of events] ... because it would minimise their TV viewership and minimise the value of the advertising played on prime-time TV. Our survey shows that they may have made a sub-optimal decision."

Six out of 10 Internet users say they intend to follow the Olympics, which kick off Friday. For one-quarter of those surveyed, the Games will be the sporting event they follow most closely this fall. This would make the Olympics the second-most anticipated sporting-event series of the season, just shy of professional football, which received 28 per cent of responses.

Keeping the official coverage of the Olympics off the Internet might turn out to be a huge mistake for the IOC and NBC, according to Insight Express. Sixty-eight per cent of Internet surfers who intend to follow the Olympics say they would watch real-time streaming video or audio coverage of the Olympics on the Web if it were available.

Thirty-eight per cent say that if necessary, they would watch pirated or non-sanctioned Olympics coverage on the Web.


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